Sunlight on St. Mark’s Community Garden

Photo by Gerry Johnson

When did your community garden begin?

Participants in a Lenten book study led by Canon Robin James proposed our community garden in 2011 as a tangible way to put our faith into practice. Other parishioners had previously planted vegetables on spare patches around the St. Mark’s parking lot. This year Bishop Scott Hayashi offered a sizeable plot on the Episcopal Church Center of Utah’s side of the property line, at one end of the patio area shared by St. Mark’s and the ECCU. We also have a smaller plot on St. Mark’s property.

How many people participate in the growing produce in the garden?

Eight people helped plant it, and five people are involved in ongoing watering and harvesting, in addition to support from the St. Mark’s sexton John O’Shea, ECCU building manager Willy Bautner, and St. Mark’s administrator Becky Ball. Bishop Scott Hayashi and St. Mark’s Dean Ray Waldon have both provided funds for the garden.

Rev. Canon Diana Johnson (former director of UIPL) gardening with the youth of St. Mark’s
Photo by Gerry Johnson

How much food does your garden produce and where does the food go?

All of the food goes to the patrons of Hildegarde’s Pantry, which serves about 1300 families per month. We have twenty-one tomato plants and about a dozen summer squash (zucchini and crooknecks) in addition to bush beans and bell peppers. For the past few weeks we have been harvesting several pounds of vegetables per week for the pantry. Parishioners also donate produce from their home gardens.

What advice do you have to others that are considering starting a community garden in their faith community?

Try to go about planning and doing the work of the garden in a spirit of faith and love. Even a little project like this can spark squabbles over the best way to do things. Find a way to utilize everyone’s talents and help them feel included. In a situation like ours, where we have to coordinate with another entity, open communication is key. Since we are just starting out, we are open to learning from what didn’t work well this year and making necessary changes next year.

Photo by Gerry Johnson

Other things to know …

Even in its infancy our pantry garden is accomplishing a lot of good. Besides showing our community’s investment in Hildegarde’s Pantry and providing fresh, very locally grown produce to patrons, it has provided an opportunity for the Episcopal Diocese and St. Mark’s to work together in a new spirit of cooperation. The bishop mentioned in a sermon that he saw the garden as a sign of the Holy Spirit at work in our community. That raises the bar considerably, but it also gives our faith tangible and (literally) growing form. To quote Hosea 14:7, “They shall again live beneath my shadow; they shall flourish as a garden.”

Submitted by Christopher LeCluyse